LAID BACK DAYS IN SUNSHINE OF ‘PORT’
Words and Photos By Dallas Sherringham
Port Macquarie is a great place for a holiday if you want a relaxed, laid back place to laze in the sun where it is more important to go for a brisk walk then battle traffic or slave away in a city gym.
‘Port’ as it is called by locals, is a real country style city which is just happens to be set beside the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
People say “Good morning” and “G’day” to you even if they don’t know you and this is rather a shock for visitors from Sydney.
The place to walk is the famous Breakwall with its stunning artwork, all the work of visitors to the town. The Breakwall runs alongside the NRMA Caravan Park which is packed by thousands of visitors all year round.
It links the city centre’s Town Green with the Surf Beach and is arguably the best and easiest oceanside walk in Australia.
John Oxley was the first European to visit the area in 1818 and he camped on the hill overlooking the Hasting River’s treacherous entry.
Oxley realised it could be a great port, but the Colonial Government in Sydney decided – as they did in those days – it would be perfect for a convict settlement.
So, Port Macquarie became a place of misery for decades as hundreds of convicts were sent north as punishment for ‘secondary offences’ in Sydney.
Luckily, we have a great record of convict life thanks to a writer named “Woomera” who wrote a short book about his experiences as convict. It was a book of great sadness’s with a choice between working on the chain gang or the road gang for most prisoners.
But they did manage to build some eye-catching buildings including the stunning St Thomas Anglican Church which sites high on the hill overlooking the city centre and the old courthouse
And “Woomera” told of some funny times such as when the amputees used to suddenly start fighting amongst themselves and hitting each other with their wooden peglegs.
Stealing was rife as was escape from the settlement and you had to have your wits about you at all times.
Gradually private settlers started arriving and the penal settlement closed. “Port’ became a busy shipping centre with timber and produce from the Hinterland sent down the Hastings from Wauchope.
With the coming of the railway and then the Pacific Hwy, shipping rapidly died out but ‘Port’ became a town and then a city which attracted retirees from the regional areas of NSW and Sydneysiders looking to escape the rat race.
And tourists began arriving by road in ever increasing numbers and Port Macquarie became quite an exotic destination for holidaymakers. With a warm winter climate it was seen as the start of the tropics for visitors.
Today’s visitors range from those enjoying five star accommodation at places like Rydges or in luxury high rise apartments with superb views, to campers, caravanners and ever increasing motorhome owners.
‘Port’ offers great clubs a string of excellent beaches, fishing, boating river cruises, a zoo, koala hospital and sanctuary and wineries.
The drive up the Pacific Hwy was once horrendous, but now it freeway all the way from the centre of Sydney to the M1 turnoff 15km from town. It is an easy fur to five hour drive from Greater Sydney.
ABOVE:: The convict buit church
RIGHT: Breakwall Rock art
THINGS TO DO IN
PORT MACQUARIE –
5;Billabong Zoo Koala Centre
6.Stoney Aqua Park
7.Timbertown at Wauchope
8.Port Macquarie Museum
9.Walk on the Town Green and see the Breakwall art
10,Sightseeing drive including Tacking Point Lighthouse